Energy

Evacs and drills pared near nuke plants

NEW YORK, NY — “Without fanfare, the nation’s nuclear power regulators have overhauled community emergency planning for the first time in more than three decades, requiring fewer exercises for major accidents and recommending that fewer people be evacuated right away.

The revamp, the first since the program began after Three Mile Island in 1979, also eliminates a requirement that local responders always practice for a release of radiation.

At least four years in the works, the changes appear to clash with more recent lessons of last year’s reactor crisis in Japan.

Under the new rules, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which run the program together, have added one new exercise: More than a decade after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, state and community police will now take part in exercises that prepare for a possible assault on their local plant.

Still, some emergency officials say this new exercise doesn’t go far enough.

And some view as downright bizarre the idea that communities will now periodically run emergency scenarios without practicing for any significant release of radiation.

These changes, while documented in obscure federal publications, went into effect in December with hardly any notice by the general public.”

— Jeff Donn, Associated Press

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